Military personnel on active duty and their spouses that are involved in a contested divorce, custody, visitation, support or other family law issues in California should understand that their cases are usually more complicated than similar issues for civilians. There are certain financial rights that are unique to former spouses of military personnel and valuable military pensions are community property even for short marriages. If you or your spouse are active duty military, it’s important to work with an experienced California military family law attorney with experience in this area. Envision Family Law, LLP has a tradition of excellence in handling military family law matters.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA)

Military pensions are valuable assets with many lifelong benefits that are due to military service personnel after only twenty years of active duty and payable for life after retirement. The USFSPA established that military pensions constitute property that can be divided in a divorce, but grants states the right to choose how this will be accomplished for a divorce, separation or annulment. California used the “community property” approach to dividing property for a divorce, presumptively dividing it equally. For military pensions, there is no minimum length of marriage requirement in order to be entitled to a portion of the benefits for spouses of military personnel that are domiciled in California. A service member’s domicile is not simply the last place they lived before beginning active duty, it is their “true, fixed and permanent home.” Domicile is not automatically changed to where military personnel are stationed, but it’s common for service members to change their domicile if they’re stationed in states such as Florida or Texas that have no income tax. Demonstrating the intent to change domicile is as simple as obtaining a new driver’s license, registering to vote or registering a vehicle. It’s important to know that if a domicile has been changed the laws of the new domicile are likely to apply to the pension. That said, the military spouse can elect to allow California to have jurisdiction over property division. If you’re active duty military and seeking a divorce it’s important to discuss which jurisdiction would better serve your interests with an experienced military family law attorney.

Military Child Custody Issues

There are special California and Federal laws that provide military parents with safeguards and protections for their parental rights while they are providing service to their country. California helps military parents that are fighting for custody to retain as much access to the court system as possible before and during their deployment. For example, if deployment is imminent, every effort will be made to move up a custody hearing. If it’s not possible to move it up or the parent has already been deployed, every effort will be made to have the parent attend the hearing virtually. California Family Code Section 3047 sets forth the custodial rights of military parents on active duty and does not allow for any permanent changes in custody as a result of deployment. If one parent is deployed, the other parent will be granted temporary primary custody because they will be spending the majority of the time with the child during the deployment, but the absence will not be considered evidence for a permanent change in custody orders.

California Military Family Law Attorney

If you’re a service member, there are special California and Federal laws that apply for divorces, child custody and other family law issues. That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced California military family law attorney with experience in this area. Envision Family Law, LLP is experienced at handling military family law matters.